Have spent today draped on my sofa and bed in Anglo-Saxon attitudes with a splitting headache and feeling like the wrath of God - heaven knows why, I don't. So I am sitting here at my laptop, 'alone and palely loitering' but feeling a bit better than I did at 4 am this morning.
I needed something to cheer me up and if ever a book fulfilled that criteria, it is this one. Henrietta's War is one of four books being published by the Bloomsbury Group over the next few weeks. These are books that have long been out of print and, like any sensible publisher should do, they have asked us, the readers what we would like to see available again. Of course, asking me was asking for trouble as I immediately shot off a list that would keep them going for the next twenty years.
Well, Henrietta's War is a gem. Very Diary of a Provincial Lady'ish, same dry understated wit, not laugh out loud, but deeply satisfying. Henrietta is the doctor's wife living in a seaside town and the sub-title of this book is "News from the Home Front 1939-1942". It is an epistolary novel, Henrietta is writing to an old childhood friend, Robert who is away fighting and each letter tells an anecdote of the daily lives of those at home coping with the War. It is full of wonderful characters. There is a Lady B, who unlike Lady Boxe in Provincial Lady, is kindness itself and loved by everyone. She writes to Hitler every night to tell him what she thinks of him and is a tower of strength, we only learn later in the book that she lost her daughter during the First World War and is a moment that brought tears to my eyes.
Faith, the glamorous member of the community, whose clothes are always spot on and who takes a funny turn when she hears that from now on, clothes can only be obtained by coupons; Mrs Savernack, organising everybody and everything and armed with a pistol to shoot any invaders. As you read you realise that, once again, we have a portrayal of the indomitable women and older men left at home during the war and determined with bravery and stiff upper lip to do their very best. It is simply full of the most wonderful delights and if you need cheering up, read this and enjoy.
"You know the way Faith has of suddenly producng celebrities out of a hat? Her latest is a Conductor, - of singing not trams...."
The Conductor falls madly in love with Faith and not sure if she reciprocates his feeling, he pines and 'makes our lives a burden during her absence with yearnings and lamentations.....I knitted nearly a whole Balaclava helmet while he opened his heart to me and Lady B said his voice was so soothing she found it almost impossible to keep her eyes open and slept solidly through most of his visits".
Lady B skating "floating away like a big black bird"
A food parcel arrives from Australia
As you can see, Henrietta's War has got the most delightful black and white illustrations, very Miss Pettigrew, very Provincial Lady and are totally in keeping with the story.
I loved this book.... nothing else to say.